(ORDO NEWS) — The formation of supercontinents in the Earth’s past led to the growth of huge mountain systems that could have spurred key evolutionary breakthroughs: eukaryotes, photosynthesis, and modern animal phyla.
During slow tectonic movements, the continents of the Earth either separate or join, forming supercontinents of colossal proportions. Mountains grow accordingly.
Rising to the height of the modern Himalayas, ancient mountain systems crossed entire supercontinents: for example, the Trans Gondwanan Supermountain stretched for more than eight thousand kilometers. Australian scientists have traced the emergence of such mountains in the past of the Earth.
Geologists from the Australian National University (ANU) have studied zircon samples that have survived to this day, depleted in the rare earth metal lutetium: such minerals are formed only at the base of the highest mountain systems, under high pressure.
The work showed that the periods of the most active formation of such “supermountains” coincided with the time of the formation of ancient supercontinents – from 2 to 1.8 billion years ago and from 650 to 500 million years ago.
But the most interesting thing seems to be the coincidence of both times with the most important periods in the evolution of life on Earth. So, the formation of the “Nuna Supermountain” (Nuna Supermountain) falls on the time of the appearance of the first eukaryotic cells, photosynthesis and oxygen catastrophe.
The formation of the “Transgo Dwan supermountains” coincides with the Cambrian explosion , during which the first representatives of most modern types of multicellular animals appeared.
Scientists suggest that there is a direct connection between the “supermountains” and these evolutionary outbursts. Supermountains bring masses of vital minerals to the surface, including phosphorus and iron, which are actively washed out during the erosion process and can feed plant cells like an additional dose of fertilizer.
The growth of plant biomass not only feeds animals, but also increases the flow of oxygen into the atmosphere, which, in turn, allows animals to grow larger and find new ways of evolutionary development.
As if to prove this, scientists have not found any traces of “supermountains” between 1.8 and 0.8 billion years ago. In the history of life on Earth, this time is known as”The Boring Billion “: it was characterized by a stable climate, low oxygen content, and extremely slow evolution.
Perhaps the whole point was precisely the lack of colossal mountain systems that helped life develop.
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